Frieri Trade Beginning to Pay Off for Padres


On May 3rd, 2012, the Padres traded their inconsistent but talented reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Angels for two minor league prospects: Middle Infielder Alexi Amarista and Pitcher Donn Roach.  The trade itself made perfect sense for both clubs, as Los Angeles of Anaheim needed bullpen help, and San Diego needed depth in the Middle Infield and a Minor League arm which they could eventually develop into a starter or long reliever.  At first, it certainly appeared that Los Angeles had received the better-end of the deal as Frieri has pitched “lights-out” for them out of the bullpen and has yet to give up a single Run over his first 25.1 Innings Pitched.  Yet over the last month or so, the players which the Padres received in exchange for Frieri have also performed quite well and have begun to make the trade look like a worthwhile business venture from San Diego’s end.

Alexi Amarista

Blocked at almost every position he could play, and thus stuck at Triple-A level with the Angels, Amarista was in need of some chances to shine at the big league level.  Luckily for him, San Diego was in desperate need of some Middle Infielders.  And over the last month or so, Amarista really made it difficult on the coaching staff to diminish his playing time because of his productivity at the plate, and his play in the field.

In terms of his offensive production, Amarista has really stepped up his game and been one of the bigger reasons why San Diego has improved their run production numbers as of late.  On the season (110 At-Bats), Amarista has hit .273, logged 30 Hits, 6 Doubles, 2 Triples, 4 Home Runs, and knocked in 18.  Even more impressive than Amarista’s ability to hit consistently and show some pop (.527 Slugging Pecentage) has been the speedster’s ability to get on base and score runs.  Through 41 games, Alexi has posted a .403 On-Base Percentage, scored 15 Runs, and given the Padres a legitimate threat at the #2 spot in the batting order.  Also helping Amarista is the fact that he can hit in any one of the #6-#8 spots as well, and can provide a valuable Left-Handed bat off the bench to pinch-hit or lay down an ever important sacrifice bunt if the moment arises.

In addition to Amarista’s continued consistency at the plate, he also has been a pleasant surprise all over the diamond with his slick glove as well.  So far, Alexi has played five positions for the Padres, and has shown that he can be an every day player at one of the Middle Infield spots, or out in Left Field for some spot starts to boot.  Amarista seems to have found a home at Second Base though, as he has played in 28 games there and posted a perfect 1.000 Fielding Percentage in said spot.

During a season which the Padres will be experimenting to see which players play best where, and which ones are and are not part of the franchise’s long-term plans, Amarista has shown that he has quite a bit going for him and can help the team in multiple ways.  But while Amarista has proven himself so far during his short stint at the major league level, the other player the Padres got in exchange for Frieri has had himself an incredible year in the minor leagues and might project to be an even bigger piece to San Diego’s future puzzle.

Donn Roach

Roach, who will be 23 after the season ends, has torn through Single-A California League during the first half of this season with both Los Angeles of Anaheim’s and San Diego’s affiliates (Inland Empire and Lake Elsinore).   Through 88.1 Innings pitched at the High-A level, Roach posted a 10-1 record over 14 games and 13 starts, a 1.94 ERA, and 73 Strikeouts.  Even more impressive was the fact that Roach gave up only 2 Home Runs, and a measly 14 Walks during his stints both clubs.

For his efforts, Roach was named a California League All-Star this season and earned a call-up to Double-A San Antonio almost three weeks ago.  Since he arrived with the Missions, Roach has started 2 games (pitched in 3) and done quite well in both starts.  Combined, Roach has pitched 11.0 Innings, has given up only one unearned Run in both of his starts (and three appearances total), and finally went 5.0 Innings of no-hit ball during his first career start at the Double-A level.

In this YouTube clip from a start with Inland Empire (courtesy of Steve Fiorindo of this season, we can see Roach’s effective Sinker, and the terrific movement he gets on the rest of his pitches.  If Roach can continue to throw his pitches with consistency and solid overall movement, he could very well become an effective weapon for the Padres, especially in the cavernous Petco Park.  Roach will likely finish the season in San Antonio as the team will try to get him as much experience as possible and groom him for an eventual promotion to Tucson, which could happen as early as next season at the rate he has progressed so far in 2012.

Final Thoughts

As nicely as Amarista and Roach have performed since the trade, I would still give the current edge in this trade to the Angels because of how effective and essentially unhittable Frieri has been since the trade at the major league level and helped Los Angeles of Anaheim in the present.  Nevertheless, it has been at least comforting to see the Padres had put themselves in a situation where they acquired a couple of talented players at positions which they were in dire need of adding to their roster heading into this season and beyond.

So while the Angels might be the present “winners,” the Padres might gain the upper hand in a few years time.  Amarista has all but assured himself of a roster spot for the rest of this season, likely will make the 25-man roster in 2013, and should figure into San Diego’s long-term plans with his unique skill-set and overall ability as well.  And although Roach has yet to pitch at the Triple-A level, his progression through the minor leagues, the movement he gets on his pitches, plus his age and the window for him to develop are all working in his favor.  If all goes well, we could see Roach with the Padres at some point during the 2014 season.  And the addition of an effective Roach to an already young and emerging rotation by then could really make the Padres a formidable top to bottom unit by the middle of the decade.

We will likely have to wait a few years to see how this trade ultimately pans out for both clubs.  Thus, it is definitely too soon to rush to any conclusions.  Nevertheless, I am at least happy in the present because it appears that even though the Padres traded a talented reliever in the form of Frieri, they might have found two important pieces to help them in future seasons.

What say you Padres fans?  Will Amarista and/or Roach end up helping the ballclub in the future?  Or did the Padres get swindled again?

Statistics Courtesy of: Baseball Reference, ESPN, and MILB Stats